It’s Not Cheap To Be An Athlete

Chapter 17, Blog 1

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang


Short of 15-year-old fishing line, have you ever seen anything so snarled and screwed up? The steep price of being an Olympic athlete was climbing by the minute. Melinda took the kids and moved in with her mother, Dedra, nine blocks away, over on Franklin Street.

I tried calling. She hung up on me.

I tried visiting. She wouldn’t answer the door.

I tried writing. She sent the letters back, unopened.

I talked to Dedra, who said Melinda refused to listen. “Never has, never will.” Dedra then chastised me for being so selfish and ignorant about women. She had an inkling of what happened, but her real motivation was personal. Dedra wanted Melinda out of her house as quickly as possible. Soon, a week peeled away. My daughters came over a handful of times because they missed me. I sure missed them. I missed their mother, too. Melinda didn’t seem to care. She made the kids promise to leave if I dared bring up any “issues,” Shannon said.

After two weeks, I begged Geri to go over and tell Melinda the whole truth and nothing but the truth. She did. Melinda listened politely and then told Geri that her lawyer would contact me. Midlife crisis she could overlook. Adultery she could not. Melinda wanted a trial separation.

And who was having a midlife crisis?

Meanwhile, I left it all on the Valparaiso High School track. Melinda’s last words about the Olympics hung in the air, haunting me. Now I would do anything I had to make it. And that included running intervals with freshmen.

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

Freakin’ Fast

Chapter 14, Blog 2

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang


Off we zoomed. Billy got the better start. Already he was two meters ahead. My feet tiptoed down the track, investigated the feel – and flirted with the sensation.

… don’t look now, but you’re freakin’ racing …

A tidal wave of emotion hit.

… you bastard, you love this …


The rush, freedom, juvenile joy …

… hey, you idiot, he’s pulling away …


I lengthened my strides. Pushed them quicker, deeper.

And …

Came up even with Billy down the backstretch. The pace quickened, maybe too quick. Split times? Too smokin’ fast.

… he’s just a kid. What you waiting for? BEAT HIM! GRAB THE LEAD …

I ignored the voice and the temptation. Into the turn, I dropped behind Billy, just missing  his heels. I loped down the front stretch, inches behind.

“DING, DING, DING,” Geri sang as we crossed the line. “One lap to go!”

Billy shifted into high and cruised to a three-stride lead. No decision here. I had to go, too. I hit the pedal. To my surprise, it responded. A couple of sputters, but it responded.

I closed the gap again. Into the last turn, we roared. Again, Billy pulled away.

… there he goes …

It was now or never.

Out of the turn, I whipped into the second lane and ran like a man on fire. I was on fire. The lactic acid kicked in. My legs burned.

… burn, baby, burn …

I tried to embrace it. Every step hotter, hotter.

… DAMN, your legs, they’re melting …


… so what, GO…

I did. We were neck and neck. My legs seared. The faster I ran, the hotter they got. I smelled flesh cooking. At the line, Billy stretched. I didn’t.

It was Billy by a nose.

I didn’t collapse in a heap, but I wanted to. No way I would give those children the satisfaction. Bent over, hands on knees, I felt hungover. My head spun like a cheap propeller and my sides threatened to cave in. And then I remembered.

… you lost, you lost to a kid …

I hated to lose. I hated it. I hated it.

“Yeah, so what?” I said through teeth clenched and slowly straightened up.

… why didn’t you lean, you too good to lean, you damned loser …


The unmistakable sound of laughter sucked me back to reality. Geri and Billy were more than giddy, laughing so hard tears were rolling down their cheeks. Freakin’ bastards. Are you kidding? Furious, I pivoted to lash out.

“Guess what, Old Man,” Geri said.

“You disqualified Billy for being too young?”

“No, worse.”

“What?” I yelled.

“You two freaks just broke the school record by almost three seconds.”

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang